Even I have limits when it comes to talking about myself although I know that might seem hard to believe! Nonetheless, I am holding back on my two other horse-related stunts for now (one featuring my very own grey diplodocus Blue) to allow some interjection from my sister: The Devon Home Cook.

In the latter part of the decade that I was flinging myself from equines she was spending summers on Sark driving them. Sark is one of the smallest Channel Islands that can only be reached by ferry and notable for (then) its feudal system and ban on all motorised vehicles barring tractors.

In her previous incarnation as the Sark Carriage Driver she hung out in the village square (probably smoking?) waiting to take tourists round the island, for which you have to pass a test. The test was not only to show that you could stop, start and steer a horse, but that you had the correctly entertaining grockle spiel in three different langauages as you took them round the island. I think the highpoint of her career was having Ian Beale from “Eastenders” in her carriage šŸ˜‰

She has reminded me on yesterday’s comments that she had a carriage bolting incident once, so I am hoping she is going to come on here and fill in the truly terrifying gaps. Sark actually consists of the imaginatively named Big Sark and its unequal and opposite, Little Sark. The Sark Carriage Driver had to travel across the isthmus, called La Coupee, that joins the two to get back to the ranch. I am hoping (for my mother’s sake) that the escapade wasn’t across this dramatic but highly dangerous tourist attraction.

La Coupee: The razor-edged isthmus joining the main island to Little Sark, is the most spectacular sight in the Channel Islands. Before 1900 when protective railings were erected, children from Little Sark, had to crawl on their hands and knees to avoid being blown over the edge.

I am also wondering if that choice detail was included in the tourist chat?

Posted on November 24, 2009, in Biophilia, Cycling., Nostalgia and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. I would love to live somewhere where there were no cars! šŸ™‚
    I remember seeing Sark featured on the ‘Coast’ programme, which I used to love, and I remember Neil Oliver talking about the isthmus.

  2. In your rhapsody about Sark you forgot (?) to mention the iron fist of the Barclay Brothers and their extraordinary island fortress, like something out of Dr No. The island’s boatmen make a passable living taking grockles out to gape at its impregnable mass rearing up out of the sea.

    Also, as I can testify from personal experience, the downside to no cars is having to ride from one end of Sark to the other on a bike (without lights) on stony dirt tracks and no street lighting!

  3. Agh, that’s all part of the charm! That and bucking horses, ones with no brakes and others who like to run off, or spin round or, as Sandy did, stop and run backwards whenever another horse came too close behind you. And then there was Bess, who used to rear up and/or run backwards whenever she was near the stallion who resided on the north end of the island. Another incident saw my back wheel ripped off by a brakeless horse charging me from behind while in a tour convoy with some rather wealthy American cruise passengers (one of whom was THE Neil Armstrong – Ian Beale my ass. Stephanie Cole and Victoria Wood beat him hands down).

    By far the best, however, were the incidents where the horse would just take off and the only way to stop them was to stand up in your carriage, lean all of your weight back on the reins and see-saw the bit in the beast’s mouth until it could continue no more. What fun!

    I only had one bad experience on La CoupĆ©e, and that was at about 1am on a really foggy night, on my way back from dropping some people off after a night carriage. It was so foggy I couldn’t see my horse, it was howling a gale and my mind was playing tricks on me. I had no choice but to cross this isthmus, but the only light I had was the feeble flickering of the candles in the lanterns on the side. Now that was scary. You just had to put 100% trust in the horse, as there was no real clue as to where you were, or what or who lay up ahead. I did have great fun crossing that though on a busy summer day. A tap on the horse’s rump would see them charge across it, and every driver would get a kick out of seeing the grockles try to run for the passing.

    The one thing I will never forget, however, is the magic feeling of an early morning ride on the common at the north of the island aboard my favourite steed, Murphy. Sea for miles everywhere you looked, a morning haze waiting to be burned off by the beautiful early summer sun and not a soul around to see you jumping gorse bushes and tearing around the tracks. Or yes, mother, to see if you fell off and duly rescue you. Which I didn’t! It’s so very hard after that experience and freedom to go and get on an alien Thelwell pony and plod around a sand school…

    The end.

  4. Well done Emily.

    But you see, in the dark, even you are susceptible to a bit of the old quantum mechanics!

    Sandy = bad name.

    Have they got any campsites?

  5. They have. I think they have two. Ever heard of Google? I don’t think I shall be going back, however. I shall be mostly visiting the Scillys instead – no cars, closer, and quite possibly also full of insane alcoholics, but at least I don’t know them!

  6. This is an impressive amount of yarns from one family.

    What is the diasporic background of the clan?

  7. I’ll let my mum answer that because she has researched it properly. On my dad’s side it is Scottish Campbells/Russells hanging out in Turkey for a century.

    • and in the absence of mother – Lancashire to Leicester (blacksmithing – railways) and Grays – Glos (via wild fantasies about Master Confectioners in between).

      Is it wrong to be proud of a Russell Brand connection…

  8. ‘Is it wrong to be proud of a Russell Brand connectionā€¦’

    You know the answer to that…

  9. Go and wash your mouth out. I won’t tell anyone that you enjoyed his book.

  10. I luv Russell I do.

  11. Dear Author !
    Yes, all is logical

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